Christians embrace ‘the Daniel Plan’ to change eating habits, lose weight

By By Mary Macvean

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Wednesday, June 25 2014 8:06 p.m. MDT

Warren traces his inspiration for the plan to the day in 2010 that he baptized 827 adults and calculated that he’d lifted more than 145,000 pounds. Not only were most of those believers overweight, Warren thought. “But I’m fat too! I’m as out of shape as everyone else is!”

In a pilot rollout of the Daniel Plan, more than 15,000 people lost a collective quarter-million pounds in a year, the church said. Plans are underway for a long-term tracking program for the plan, Eastman said.

Warren said he had 90 pounds to lose, and though he’s still working on that goal, he’s gone from Hawaiian shirts to slightly more belly-hugging black T-shirts.

“Is this something new? No,” Warren said. “For 2,000 years, the church has been caring for the sick.”

A few years back, Michael Minor banned fried chicken from his small Baptist congregation in the heart of what public health authorities call “the stroke belt” in Hernando, Miss.

“It’s all about the idea of wholeness,” a harmony of mind, body and spirit, Minor said. “If any one of those three is off, you’re not healthy.”

In the years since, a widespread focus of faith communities on food seems to be taking root. There’s a garden across the street from the Obama Chicago home, for example, that grows food to feed the hungry.

“It’s not just another diet craze — it’s tapping into something deeper, this deeper hunger we have to reconnect with our food, with our community, with our land. We are eating in a food system that has disconnected us on every level. We are eating alone ... we’re eating on the go,” says Fred Bahnson, who directs the Food-Faith Initiative at Wake Forest Divinity School in North Carolina.

“The fact that Saddleback, which is conventional — not some fringe group of hippies out in the woods — it’s not just a fringe thing anymore,” Bahnson said

Warren’s plan has five components: food, fitness, focus, faith and friends. There’s a book, journal, apps and a cookbook, as well as meetings and programs at the church and online.

“It’s not just what we eat, it’s what eats us. There’s an emotional and spiritual issue we ignore,” Warren said by telephone. “The secret sauce is faith, friends and focus.”

Much of the advice is straightforward: “Simple, real, fresh, delicious, nutrient-packed foods,” plenty of exercise, getting help from friends. All of it built on a foundation of faith.

The Daniel Plan even quotes James Beard as it advises followers to eat unprocessed food, to learn to cook and to explore new foods like goji berries, enoki mushrooms and seaweed.

There are starter detox plans of 10 or 40 days that cut out processed food, alcohol, dairy, sugar and gluten.

The friends aspect is supported with small group gatherings to study the Daniel Plan, to talk about Warren’s teachings and members’ progress.

Walk & Worship is just one of many “active ministries” at Saddleback, to help members get exercise and find the “friends” component of the program. Zumba is the most popular, with as many as 100 people showing up.

There’s also soccer, hiking and triathlon training — all with this view of the body: “God created it. Jesus died for it. The Holy Spirit lives in it. Shouldn’t you take care of it?”

Brian Olsen and David Jacques met one glorious Saturday morning at a beach, ready to share their faith and their surfing skills, as they do each week.

Norma Ramirez, who came out to surf, latched onto the Daniel Plan about a year ago.

She wasn’t fat, but she worried she was eating too much sugar.

“I had been praying for help, and when the Daniel Plan came out, I said, ‘Norma, here you go.’”

Before people and surfboards hit the water, there’s a prayer — and the hope that someone “who isn’t a believer yet” will be transformed, said Jacques, who has been surfing much of his life. On the water, waiting for a wave, there’s the chance for more conversation.

Many of the new surfers this day don’t get to their feet on the boards; a couple of them do. But that’s not the point, really, Jacques said. “We reach out to the community and put out some love.”

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©2014 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

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Topics: t000032885,t000040464,t000032881

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